New YorkFor decades, the European Union has sold itself not only as the best remedy for another European war, but as “the Europe that protects it,” arguing that given its collective size and co-sovereignty, it will provide a better life, and more long and prosperous for all. With vaccine launches in disarray, that promise now appears empty and threatens to undermine the bloc’s credibility when it comes to major challenges.
So far, only about 11 percent of the cluster population has received at least one injection of the vaccine, compared to 47 percent in Britain and 30 percent in the United States.
As European countries lock themselves again in a new wave of the virus, the reputation and credibility of the European Union and its executive arm, the European Commission, is at stake.
Brussels has always prided itself on setting the technocratic norms for the world, but it has just lost Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, and even before the pandemic, it suffered from low growth and reduced its share in global trade.
After each crisis, be it Kosovo or the euro debt disaster, the usual answer is “more Europe”. But unless Brussels can turn things around quickly, the vaccine crisis could make member states hesitant to grant more powers to the European Commission.
“This has been catastrophic for the reputation of the European Union,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Even Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and a fierce European federation, described the commission’s performance as a “total failure”.
He said that at the beginning of the crisis, when countries set up their borders and collected protective gear, masks and gowns, there was a great desire for European cooperation, “not because people loved the European Union or its institutions, but because they were so missing.”
But the question now, he said, is buyer’s remorse. “The United States entered a region without experience or competence and emerged from itself. This will have a devastating effect on other areas,” he said.